Effie Gray: Film Review


This real-life story is so very, very bleak, dismal and centres on a love triangle storyline that has been tried and tested many times. Dakota Fanning does a wonderful job in the role but I just wanted more – it was too meandering and not enough passion or hate or any type of wild emotion. It was just all too reserved and repressed for my liking, which is in keeping with the era but still not an awful lot of fun!

Dakota stars as the title character Euphemia ‘Effie’ Gray, a young Victorian women who marries a much older writer, John Ruskin (Greg Wise) who is emotionless and does not love or care for her. He barely acknowledges her presence and they never consummate their marriage. It is only until she meets painter John Everett Millais (Tom Sturridge) that she realises her life could be so different.

I don’t expect all films to be fun and I can handle a depressing tale but this is just unrelenting sadness with little hope. Millais is supposed to save her from her crippling marriage but we don’t see it happen – the film ends with ‘they will probably get together’ but you don’t see it and get that happy ending feeling and you’re not totally convinced that it will happen (although in real life, they do eventually get married). I just wanted a resolution that we can see. Also, you don’t understand how Millais and Effie develop those feelings towards each other because all we really see is him talking to her and being her companion when John won’t – but you don’t really feel they love each other.


The issue is because it is set in Victorian times the women rarely say what they mean because they always have to satisfy the man and be conscious of their reputation. That means that you don’t truly see how pained and lonely Effie is because she has to wear a mask to hide it. Basically, I just craved a 21st century outburst but you don’t get one (obviously). John is a detestable character and so are his overbearing parents (Julie Walters and David Suchet) and there isn’t enough of Millais to balance it out. The only character that gave me hope was Lady Eastlake (Emma Thompson – who also penned the script) because she could see how the marriage was affecting Effie and offers her help.

Another issue is that you cannot see why she married him in the first place. The film begins with their marriage and on their way to London Effie says “this is the first time we’ve been alone” – so was she forced into it? Was it a money thing? Because John was clearly horrid the entire time so why did she sign her life away to him in the beginning? You cannot fathom it and I think we could have done with more time at the start prior to the marriage and more time at the end for her resolution with Millais, with a bit of the depressing cut out of the middle. That’s how I would have liked it!

Fanning is brilliant with what she is given and you can see the blank stare of an unhappy person in her throughout and she is perfect with the refined British accent. Wise was totally horrible and completely emotionless, Thompson plays the same type of person she always does these days while Sturridge didn’t have enough impact for my liking. However, I thought Julie Walters was fantastic and there are elements in the piece that I truly loved, including the locations and costumes. I just didn’t feel for the characters as much as I should, I wanted more explanation and I would have liked more hope.

Released: 10th October


  1. […] recently saw Effie Gray, which has a similar premise but she sought an affair with a close companion because her husband […]


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